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SSA grad makes impact on Pitt women's lacrosse team

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Submitted
Lia Winter now plays for the University of Pittsburgh.
Submitted
Lia Winter on the field for the University of Pittsburgh.

After being a part of a very successful Shady Side Academy lacrosse team for four years, Lia Winter has played a big part in the success of the University of Pittsburgh lacrosse squad.

The Panthers have compiled a 17-1 record and received their first No.1 overall seed for the Women's Collegiate Lacrosse Association National Championships to take place in Virginia Beach, Va. through May 10.

Winter, a freshman midfielder, has contributed 15 goals and four assists, and she admits to being a little surprised at her success in her first year competing at the D-I level.

“Our team has 12 seniors and 10 out of 12 starters are seniors,” she said. “I didn't know how much I'd be playing. Even though I don't start, I see the field every game.”

Winter said she enjoys playing with such an experienced group.

“It gives us new girls someone to look up to both on and off the field,” she said. “We get to watch the seniors and we try to follow in their footsteps when we get our chance on the field. Not only that, but we have two very strong senior captains who are always willing to give us pointers or stay after practice to help us work on a skill.

“I really think that this great team environment is not only one of the keys to my success, but to the success of the team as a whole.”

Winter said she had to make some adjustments to the college game and the varied practice hours.

“The college game is much faster paced and more physical,” she said. “As far as a practice schedule, we are a club team, so our access to field hours and times is very limited. We typically practice two to three times a week for two hours in the Cost Center, which is our indoor field at Pitt. Our practice times are pretty late at night. Sometimes our slot is from 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.”

That made juggling athletics and academics a little tougher.

“It was an adjustment at first,” Winter said. “The hardest thing to get used to was coming back from a late night practice at 1 a.m. and having to be ready for an 8 a.m. class the next morning. Our coach's motto is that school comes first and we are excused from practice if we have a school-related conflict. Many of the girls on the team are nursing or health science majors, which is why they chose to come to Pitt and play club.”

Winter believes her game has improved since her SSA days.

“I think my shot placement has improved,” she said. “The goalies are quicker at the college level and I have come to realize that a well placed shot is sometimes better than a powerful one.”

She still follows the SSA lacrosse program.

“My younger sister, Tori, is a junior on the SSA lacrosse team,” Winter said. “She keeps me posted about how the team is doing. I have also attended a few games this season.”

Winter is in the Swanson School of Engineering at Pitt, and she plans to major in bioengineering with a minor in economics. She also does research at the Hillman Cancer Institute, and has volunteered there for the past two summers through the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute International Academy.

She also volunteers with Pittsburgh Soccer in the Community where she serves as a camp counselor and teaches underprivileged children how to play soccer.

For now, her focus is on the national championships.

“We've had a great season so far and we want to make a good showing in Virginia.”

Marty Stewart is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-782-2123 or mstewart@tribweb.com.

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